Creating Opportunity for Returning Citizens in Maryland and Beyond
December 8, 2016
Sponsored by American Enterprise Institute and University of Baltimore
In 2017, over 600,000 US citizens will try to navigate the transition from prison to living as responsible private citizens in their communities. The difficulties they encounter in this process result in over 40% being rearrested within a year. To discuss these issues, engaged professionals from across the country convened at the University of Baltimore to share conversations and presentations on how to create opportunities and remove barriers for these returning citizens while ensuring community safety.
Maryland’s Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, Kelly Schulz, spoke to the state of Maryland’s labor conditions and its implications for successful offender re-entry:
Understanding that employment is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism, Maryland’s Department of Labor is developing strategies to connect all those agencies involved in this issue. Secretary Schulz toured Md’s prisons last year gathering information on training opportunities and educational offerings. The department is organizing with other branches of state government which are connected with prisoner employment to mesh the returning citizens’ skill needs to those of the employers. Md has a good nationally ranked 4.2% unemployment rate. Employers are seeking opportunities to hire returning citizens and the department continues to seek and get employers commit to hiring returning citizens. Job skills training and further education are needed to meet the future job opportunities that returning citizens will face. Maryland has the highest ranking inclusion and passing of any other agency in the state for the GED programs. Standards are kept high by a focused and dedicated staff.
Donald Fry is the executive leader of Greater Baltimore Committee, made up of business leaders who formed the organization in response to the uprising in Baltimore. He explained how the committee works to reduce barriers to employment:
The Greater Baltimore Committee focuses on engaging both the private and public sectors to address returning citizens’ needs. They are working to improve this transition by beginning the process behind the walls. Data show that if a returning citizen has a stable job (regardless of financial earnings) at this point, it drastically reduces recidivism. The group is actively recruiting companies to buy into this effort. The Greater Baltimore Committee supported the Second Chance Bill, which was passed last year, and which provides opportunities for eligible returning citizens to apply for expungement for 12 offences after a 3-year waiting period.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP)
Moderator: Renita Seabrook, University of Baltimore School of Criminal Justice
Helping Others to Win
Dr. Renita Seabrooke, creator of the HO2W program (Helping Others to Win) moderated the panel of three returning citizens who shared their successful reentry through the PEP program. This Texas-based organization offers a 9-month, all-encompassing reentry experience. Not only do the returning citizens benefit, but this program has a less than 7% recidivism rate (the national average is above 40%). PEP sends postcards to people who are within 3 years of release.
Applicants are screened while behind the walls and qualify by a score of 70. Attitude is measured more than aptitude. Qualified specialists help them develop goals, life skills, and values necessary both personally and professionally to build confidence and commitment. Case managers provide individual attention to guide appropriate educational and personal development. PEP has strong ties with Baylor University, which offers intensive business programs including money management behind the walls. Their training is similar to a 7-month MBA. Employment is the key to success here.
Most offenders (approximately 90%) are unemployed when arrested. Currently the program services about 800 men but is planning for controlled expansion. Once people are on the outside, the program continues with mentoring, transitional housing help (PEP has about 100 housing beds), and assistance with the employment process, building community relationships, and supporting one another. They and their families engage in social events such as beach parties, playing and attending sports events, etc. Staying in touch with others is crucial after returning. After 90 days most (nearly 100%) have employment (nationally it takes a year for 68% to be employed), 87% have checking accounts, and after 3 years 41% own their own homes. PEP is funded by both private and public funding; 50% corporate, 40% grants, 10% faith-based support.
Experiences of PEP Participants
The panel participants each served long sentences, but now all three are business owners. Each faced challenging times but were able to persevere and navigate their reentry with the help of PEP. They report that the focus on building character is one of the key factors in the PEP program. Bryan Kelly helps to manage the PEP program and is very active in his faith community. He also owns a successful car washing business. Returning after two and a half years, Gerald Davis now owns the Vision Janitorial Services and obtained a commercial driving license. He shared that he learned to change the way he thinks and to take advantage of the opportunities available through PEP. Derek Campbell is now owner of Fast and Easy Movers at age 25. He is making plans for expansion. He has taken responsibility of his young daughter because, as PEP taught him, he needed to make wise choices and so decided that her mother was not able to be a responsible parent. It was noted that currently this program is offered for men only, but plans are being made to open it to women after the child care component is worked out.
The Courts and Criminal Justice Reform
Moderator: Roger Hartley, University of Baltimore College of Public Affairs, Dean
Probation and Parole Reform
During this panel, three Judges shared insights gained from their judicial experiences and suggested areas for improvement.
Judge Steven Alm has served as prosecutor in Hawaii. He is a former US Attorney and is currently retiring and returning to MD. Judge Alm started the HOPE project after being frustrated by seeing the ineffectiveness of the parole/probation process of monitoring their cases. Officers let offenses accumulate on their individual cases, then reported them to the judges, who had no recourse but to return them to prison due to so many violations There had to be a better way, so the Hope program was started. Under this program, when a person is out and under supervision, violations are not allowed to accumulate. Instead, there is a specific consequence for specific offences. For example, if a person on probation tests positive for drugs, they go immediately to jail for a specified time (for example, 2 days) then are released back into the probation system. “Unacceptable behavior must have immediate and swift consequences.” For those under supervision, inconsistency breeds distrust and is view as unjust. People need to know what consequences will result from their behavior, and all should be treated equally. The result in his experience is an 80% decrease in positive drug tests and missed appointments. Hope is not only a sanctions policy. It uses evidence-based principles and therapy treatment. Done correctly, it is successful. Judge Alm also advocates for each returning citizen to have a “champion” – a caring, committed person for mentoring. Currently 32 states have similar reforms or are following the Hope program.
Judge Susan Gauvey has judicial experience on both Federal and Maryland state levels. She is supporting pre- trial bail reform in MD. She stresses the need for getting judges the information they need to make informed decisions. Risk assessments are one vehicle. Risk assessments are used in the pretrial process to help identify who might have a “low” ,”medium” or “high” risk of not showing up for their trial date. Although some other states use them, only a few jurisdictions in MD use this evidence-based strategy. She would like to see them used routinely as part of the pre-trial process.
Currently, she sees Maryland’s pretrial process as “irrational, unjust, and costly.” Bail is intended to serve as an incentive for people to show up for their trial date. She believes it should be set according to the means of the charged to be able to pay it. Too many people are being held in jail because they cannot afford their bail. The Federal system removed the money bail years ago and is doing “just fine” without that component. She advocates that by using a risk assessment, people can be identified as low, medium, or high risk in terms of showing up for court. Current data indicates that about 16% of those in jails are low risk. Keeping a person in our local jails cost taxpayers $80-$120/day. Allowing the low risk and/or medium risk to remain free without bail until their trial date reduces the costs of detaining them and reduces the trauma and impact on the family. If needed, judges can require supervision during this time period to increase the chances that the accused will show up for their trial date.
If a person remains in jail for inability to pay bail, she also recommends that a mediation process should be arranged to plan for how the family will adjust to the changes during that time. Judge Gauvey believes that Del. Dumais will submit a bill that requires the use of risk assessments in the pre- trial stage. She responded to a question about the role of judges in making reforms by stating that the code of ethics supports this action and judges may communicate with legislators on these issues. Judge Alm agreed and added that they have a responsibility to do so.
Judge Steven Teske is a judge in Clayton County, Georgia (the county with the highest rate of poverty in the state) who focuses primarily on juvenile issues. His highly successful use of the justice reinvestment process in his jurisdiction led the governor to appoint him to the State Juvenile Commission, where he is known as a champion for juveniles. He states that “as the kids go, so go the adults.”
Now four years after reforms were implemented, the efforts at the juvenile level are reducing the problems at the adult level. Judge Teske implemented evidence-based practices to reduce costs of juvenile treatment and reinvested the cost savings into rehabilitation, which has made a positive impact. For example, three prisons have closed, graduation rates increased, crime and prison admission rates were drastically reduced, all resulting in cost savings and a safer community. It is better to keep juveniles out of the system. Evidence shows that low risk juveniles fare much better by remaining within their community rather than entering correctional facilities. He had to remove some of the allowable judicial discretion to accomplish this change. He worked to reclassify the high risk juveniles as a health risk category and so they could be treated clinically; Kaiser Permanente funded treatment as a health benefit. Judge Teske also stresses the necessity for the judicial and educational system to collaborate on juvenile issu
Maryland Second Chance Pell Grant Program Sites
Moderator: Andrea Cantora, University of Baltimore School of Criminal Justice, introduced the panel She noted that prior to 1994, taking college courses in prison was normal. Nationwide, only 30 college programs were maintained after 1994. These have been self-funded, privately- or foundation-funded. Post-secondary education programs are very effective in helping to reduce recidivism; prisoners who have used them have a 43% lower rate of recidivism than those who have not. Investment in post-secondary education reduces the cost of caring for the inmates effected by 30-40%, provides meaningful community engagement, and leads to less violence in prisons.
In 2015, the Department of Education lifted the ban on Pell grants to prison inmates, and now 67 of 200 former sites have revived their programs and are serving 12,000 prisoners. Four of these are in Maryland. University of Baltimore is a new site since 2015. UB’s program serves 28 students from the Jessup Correctional Institution. Students begin their studies at JCI, usually 2 or 3 years before they are eligible for parole; they will complete their program at the University of Baltimore. The program includes mentors, who are older inmates who had Pell grants before 1994. Students are engaged in the program 20 hours/week, on average. Most take three courses and a ‘study hall.’ UB is developing a re-entry component for the program.
Amy Roza, representing the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership, explained that Goucher’s program serves 100 inmates from two institutions. The program is privately funded and partners with the Departments of Corrections and Licensure. The program includes college prep courses and many Goucher courses. 77% of the participants in the Education Partnership are the first in their families to attend college. Recidivism has been markedly reduced among participants in Goucher’s program.
Goucher educates a prisoner for $6,000/year. Now, they will have Second Chance Pell Grant assistance. The program works on helping students feel a sense of belonging. They have a waiting list of professors who want to teach in the program; the bottleneck is the funds.
Pamela Polgreen, representing the Anne Arundel Community College at the Jessup Correctional facility, explained that this program serves a pool of very smart men. It offers a Certificate in Business Management. 10 students registered for the program, which was self-funded. Only 6 graduated because the others couldn’t pay all of the $3,000 cost. In the programs second year, the Pell grant opportunity came up and 210 applied for the program; however, space was limited. Their second cohort has 25 students. The program includes a student organization with 31 members. The program takes 15 months to complete. They hope their students will go on to UB to complete a 4-year degree in Business Management.
Deirdra Johnson, representing the Wor-Wic Community College, Eastern Shore, stated that beginning in January 2017, Wor-wic will offer programs in Business Management, Hotel and Motel Management, and Hospitality. They expect to serve 20 students. They are able to offer accommodation for physical disabilities. In case of academic difficulty, they are prepared to provide tutoring.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required. Men must register for the draft to submit FAFSA; prisoners cannot register for draft. These programs have overcome this somehow.
The prison-based programs have brought computers in, but they cannot access internet. Thus, the students cannot do research. Anne Arundel CC starts their program with teaching Word and Excel. Many of their students had never touched a computer before. Wor-Wic CC is not even permitted to bring in laptops, but instructors deal with the limitations by what they bring in.
There is a notion that for poor people, a GED is enough. These programs strive to overcome this belief and provide equal access to education. Who is in MD prisons? People from poor neighborhoods. People who have not had role models for academic study; people who do not know they have to register in time. These present challenges for the programs. The draft and student loans are concerns nationally; both block access to higher education.
For Wor-Wic’s program, students have to test into college level English and Math courses. (Wor-Wic uses Accu-Placer for their placement testing). The courses are not remedial; they are genuine college courses.
Re ban-the-box on college applications: Is there an extra layer? University of Baltimore is starting a conversation on campus about this.
A Returned Citizen with a degree from Coppin asked, “Is the collegiate environment preparing people for what they have to deal with when they are out?” He felt it had not helped him.
Cities and States
Moderator: Murray Dalziel, University of Baltimore Merrick School of Business, Dean
Joe Kwong, SPROKIT co-founder and CEO. Mr. Kwong explained that SPROKIT is an Opportunity and Knowledge Interactive Tool designed for successful re-entry of Returned Citizens. It is a phone tool, that successfully helps EVERYONE do their part better to help people re-enter. SPROKIT includes a section for all stakeholders. It is a “gamification” of re-entry, in which the Returned Citizen or the prisoner earns points and badges. The rewards tell the prisoner or Returned Citizen where they are in the process and thus, gives hope. It includes a face to face check-in system for validation (for example, in class or at a meeting). It gets people off the ankle bracelet GPS. When a person signs up for SPROKIT, they get it also for friends and family. Administrators and others in supervisory roles can use it to monitory progress.
Re-entry is about transition, for which we need transformation. SPROKIT connects everyone together to achieve this. Sprokit is in full use in Alameda County, CA, within a project to create pathways for Returned Citizens.
They are also developing a version of SPROKIT for alternative diversion during arrest. NY is interested in this new tool, to use it to change police from a warrior class to care/counselor status to move the person through sustainable transformation to productive citizen. Instead of arrest, the police officer can upload SPROKIT to the person’s phone and get immediate connection for referral and treatment.
The major obstruction to putting SPROKIT in place is the structures that limit procurement and application. SPROKIT is usually free to a police jurisdiction because SPROKIT wants data to continue to develop and fine tune it. Verizon usually donates phones when they are needed.
Devone Boggan, City of Richmond, California. Director, Office of Neighborhood Safety and CEO, Advance Peace. Richmond had a high rate of homicide by firearms. The Office of Neighborhood Safety became a force for change by making a new classification in city government: street workers known as Neighborhood Change Agents. Requirements for the job included: Richmond resident, formerly incarcerated, gun violence in background. Most gang members do not shoot; neither do most Returned Citizens. They were able to find out who the people were who doing the shooting and work with them directly. The Neighborhood Change Agents are not afraid, they understand the people they work with. They are now a stable presence in Richmond government, well paid ($48K-60K/year, family medical and dental insurance). They have now added Program Coordinators, which brings a higher salary. And Richmond’s rate of gun violence declined 40% over 2007-2015. Cities can solve longstanding challenges by capitalizing on the resources of their Returned Citizens.
The Neighborhood Change Agents provide a new kind of intervention. They are not the police, they do not engage in pursuit or harassment. They treat you as a citizen affected by the violence and understand you as an asset and every single day help you engage in the work of transformation.
Ganesha Martin, Baltimore Police Department. Ms. Martin’s task is changing the culture of policing in Baltimore by implementing the Department of Justice recommendations for Baltimore.
Baltimore police officers do not have computers in their cars. They write their reports and take them to the station to be typed up by a police person who cannot go out. STRIVE is working to have Returned Citizens be the people who interface with the community (and who really do follow through with assistance). They are working to get expungable records expunged. There is a group in Western District talking about what to do in community, working to create a diversion program and community centered programs. Computer availability for police on the street would be a huge step forward to help with culture change, allowing, for instance, the police person to find appropriate referrals for the individual. Bringing the community into the work is a significant factor in creating change. For example: a young person who was kicked out of a computer program as not appropriate is now the star of the Western District program and posterchild for Baltimore City Police because of his computer skills.
Baltimore City Police Department doesn’t have the brainpower to solve our problems. She looks for people in the community to help – with IT, Human Resources, caring – to bring social justice and equity into the Police Department. She says, just ask, let people know we want their help. Once relationships are established, she has to be responsive.
Everything the Richmond, CA, office does is motivated by the young men who are the Returned Citizens and who have had to negotiate the social services. Current social services/human services agencies is not prepared for this population, and they are not prepared for the agencies.
Relationship is the core intervention in the Richmond program that has got the results – lowering instance of gun violence and increasing solution of crimes. Specialized health workers, neighborhood safety officers, and neighborhood change agents take each person by the hand and help him engage in transformation.
Who funds SPROKIT? It’s cheaper than ankle bracelets, incarceration. Verizon offered the funds in one community. Is training involved? Yes, they would train her, then she can train others.
The Ungar Project at University of Maryland works with geriatric Returned Citizens. Are mental health and health records on the SPROKIT? Yes, it’s all in there, but only appropriate people can see it. SPROKIT isn’t perfect yet, but they continue to work on it.
Outward Bound builds trust both ways, officers to community and vice versa. Relationships are the core of Outward Bound, working with middle school students. They also partner with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Big and Blue. People forget that police are human; and police forget that the people on the street are, too, so building relationships through these programs helps.
Employers and Reentry
Moderator: John Cammack, Cammack Associates LLC. Mr. Cammack commented that there are misperceived hazards in hiring.
Malcom Glenn. Uber, Public Policy Manager. Mr. Glenn works with drivers who have criminal records or disabilities. UBER learned that they were disqualifying people for driving with application questions that made no sense. Following conversations with communities about the adverse effect of their policies, they decided to try to align screening around California’s Prop 47, thus reclassifying many offenses. Then they went back to get people who had submitted applications but were turned down based on “the box” and hired them if they were now qualified. Now, if someone comes to them they cannot hire, they partner them with organizations that can get them job skills training. Uber waives the application fee for those they have to turn down.
Both Uber and UnderArmour have signed the White House’s Fair Chance Business Pledge. Uber has hired 3300 people in California who would not have been able to drive under the old screening, and their ratings averaged 4.82, which is higher than either California’s or USA’s ratings. Customers loved them. The new hiring policy was a good business proposition.
How can we make our process fairer? There is a law in Maryland related to driver screening for cabs that would not permit these drivers to be hired. Only Connecticut and Rhode Island permit a business to make exceptions, and Uber does in those states what they do in California.
Tom Geddes, employee, Plank Industries (the personal business of UnderArmour’s Kevin Plank). An organization must have the Intention to work with returned citizens, commitment of everyone in the company, and execution. And they must have a supply of returned citizens and workable processes and resources in place.
The company has a hotel on Fells Pt and a whiskey distillery at Port Covington. They are committed to staying in Baltimore City and to making the jobs successful for Baltimore City. When a business debt is paid, it’s done; when a citizen’s debt to society has been paid, it should be done. Plank Industries is working with all the workforce development agencies in the city. City Garage at Port Covington now houses ‘Lighthouse’ Innovation Center, which is intended to make it possible to manufacture in the US and to keep jobs in Baltimore by equipping Under Armour’s staff and external partners with substantial space and tools to create new and revolutionary products. Product developers, engineers, designers and operators will have access to 3D design, 3D printing, rapid prototyping and body scanning. The Foundery is another ‘maker space,’ a place for people to use tools, etc., that they don’t want to buy, for the price of a gym membership/month. Tens of thousands of jobs will eventually be in Port Covington, and entrepreneurship will be a focus. Plank Industries have signed the Fair Chance Pledge, as have Uber and JHU.
There should be no background check until a job offer has been made. UnderArmour needs a dedicated team in Human Resources for background checks, and the background checks need to be kept confidential, whether hired or not according to results of check.
John Danko represented Danko Arlington Inc., a manufacturing enterprise in Baltimore for three generations, now operating a pattern shop, foundry, and machine shop in one facility located on Wabash Ave in Park Heights. Corporate America can be comprised of the “thousand points of light” President Bush reference. Danko recruited his own employees in Park Heights and Pimlico by walking around the community. He hired 10 out of the hundred finalists, but after drug testing, he was unable to keep them all. So he developed a pre-screening tool for applicants. Now, about one-third of his employees are ex-offenders. They work four 10 hour days/wk. The 5th day is for probation officers and such. Many of the employees drop out of work after awhile; they are not fired, but life intervenes. Those that stay want to move up. These are high level jobs requiring competent use of fractions and decimals, writing and grammar. There is resentment if they are not chosen; they need more education, more training on the job. But older employees who have been promoted have acted as mentors and this helps.
John Huffington, Living Classrooms Foundation, Workforce Development, spent 32 years in prison, 10 years on death row, and was released because he was innocent. Living Classrooms is one of the longest running reentry programs in Baltimore. They have a recidivism rate of 9%, compared to the city’s rate of 45%, and they are about to improve these rates. Maryland Correctional Enterprises makes and restores furniture, makes food products, signage, and more, hiring as many people as they can. They use old methods, no modernization.
Living Classroom starts service behind the fence. The goal is Rapid Attachment to Work at minimum wage or better. They work to develop work ethic. They clean 4000 lots for the city; this is not glamorous, but gives a lot of pride. Living Classroom does all the training components to prepare the person for the job he wants to do. They emphasize having a goal. If you work for McDonald’s, have a goal: become lead cook or become manager. If you hire one of John’s people, you’ve hired John, for 2 years; he will be there to assure his client’s success. Whatever you want to be, Living Classroom will help you get there.
The Patuxent Institution housed many parole violators. Living Classroom investigated why the guys were coming back. It was because there was no support system. Living Classroom has a mentorship program for social re-integration. They support the returned citizens to check up on one another and support one another in the re-entry process. There are Living Classroom workshops every week and talks every morning. They work to change the mindset of the employers. They work outside with two 2 landscaping companies; their goal is to help the guys inside to ‘make the time work.’
Caryn York, JOTF, asked, “What do you look for in the background check after determination to hire?” Uber looks at everything, particulars varying state to state. The main factor is whether it is fundamentally related to the task. Three driving-related offenses in a period disqualify the applicant. They determine whether the job is jeopardized by the conviction. They do NOT reject an applicant based on just arrest with no conviction.
Danko does not use background checks because the information is not relevant to manufacturing. They are looking for skills and ability to come to work every day.
Minimum wage legislation goes against what we are doing here, says John Danko. Danko wins his contracts based on price. 2/3 of his company’s workers earn more than $15/hour, but one-third earn less than $15. He does not believe he can bid competitively if he is paying floor sweepers or other low-skilled workers $15/hr.
Tying it Together
Moderator: Gerard Robinson, AEI
All presenters on this panel are returned citizens.
Mary Heinen, University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project, went to prison at 21 and was in four institutions, from 1976 for 27 years, for a 2nd degree murder case. The hardest thing was going back to her old neighborhood and finding her home with no door and water everywhere. Her parents “threw her a rope.” Now her mother is dead and her father has Alzheimer’s disease. She lived at a shelter in Ann Arbor, where people who later on have no “rope”, lost a job, or whatever, can go. It is hard to find a shelter bed so you can maintain a job. She got a job by offering herself at a neighborhood grocery when someone had not shown up. Later, after she got a Social Work degree and certifications, she was about to be hired for a position when they did the background check after she checked the box. Seeing her record, they marched her to the door, kicked her out and locked the door behind her. Next job, they checked the wrong person, not her record. She was eventually able to get them to see that they had the wrong record, but a less persistent person might have failed. She recommends that parole be served where the person is known and will be cared for. Mary owes large sums for back taxes she didn’t know she owed, as well as her college loans. She sees a critical need for financial responsibility training as people prepare for re-entry.
Ronald Moten, Jack Kemp Foundation. From DC, Ron was kicked out of school and became a drug dealer. He was imprisoned, applied for and received a Pell Grant, and studied Native American and African American history. He was released in time for the Million Man March. He worked to organize youth for the March. He had significant mentoring when he came home. He went back to his community and worked for 9 years without pay. He did events to pay his bills. His mentor, Dr. Johnson, told him, “If they don’t pay you, they don’t respect you,” so he told them he wouldn’t do it for free anymore. They gave him the job with pay. Peacaholic was his program. Then he was accused of theft and he lost everything. It took five years for him to clear his name. He does a lot of mentoring now in workforce development. He notes that lack of opportunity produced the situation we are in.
Melissa Santos, Changing Perceptions. She was an accountant for 22 years and went to prison for passport fraud at the age of 40. She had had no idea what prisons were like, nor what it would be like to re-enter society. She has a degree in Accounting from UCLA and is now doing a double masters. She was in a county jail in LA where she became friends with the sheriff. She was permitted to be out of her cell for 30 minutes three times each week. She created the sisterhood program, brought people together. She wanted to continue this work on the outside.
Now she lives in DC (because she has lupus and her family is in DC). She has been able to do what she needs to do, but most people do not have her resources (a car, some savings). She joined a think tank on collateral consequences, a group of attorneys, to change DC laws that inhibit returning citizens’ re-entry, especially licensing laws that prohibit returning citizens from obtaining one. She is also trying to return to prison to teach a financial literacy class. Melissa has her own accounting practice now, and is hiring three people. She will teach them financial practice. Melissa notes that health education is critical. People are given a lot of drugs in prison and it impairs them after. Women are often unable to care for their children even after they get out.
Chris Wilson, social entrepreneur. Growing up, there were shootings in his neighborhood every day. His brother and his cousin were shot. His mother was a DC paramedic. A police officer came home with his mother one day, knocked Chris out with his stick and raped his mother. Other awful stuff ensued. Then he was sent to prison at 17, for life. He wrote up a list one day of all the things he wanted to do, and proceeded to do them. He was consistently turned down for parole, but he kept showing the parole judge what he had accomplished, and finally, one called him back and reversed his decision on parole. He wanted to return to his neighborhood and teach kids what no one ever taught him, things he learned by reading and teaching himself during 16 and a half years in prison.
While he was a student at University of Baltimore, he got a job-as a street worker. Now he owns two construction companies and mediates gang wars. He will soon graduate from UB, which he has attended on a full scholarship from the Business School. He has a book deal; his book, The Master Plan, will be published in the spring. His mother has committed suicide. Only 10 of his employees in his construction companies earn minimum wage; everyone else earns more. Chris and Ron noted that Pell grants for prisoners ended in 1994. If people are to come out better than they went in, education is critical. They made reference to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” in this regard.
MAJR thanks Rosalie Dance, Candy Clark, Deborah Friese, and Adrian Bishop for this comprehensive report.